a loosely-defined set of symbols

The human body is a complex and fascinating organism, made up of many different parts that work together in harmony to sustain life. Each body part serves a specific purpose, and while all are important, some are arguably more crucial than others. In this essay, I will argue that the nose is the most important body part.

The nose is a vital organ responsible for our sense of smell. Our sense of smell is one of our most important senses, as it allows us to detect and distinguish a wide variety of odors. The ability to smell is closely linked to our ability to taste, as the sense of smell plays a crucial role in our ability to perceive flavors. Without our sense of smell, food would taste bland and unappetizing, and we would be unable to enjoy many of the simple pleasures in life.

The nose also plays an important role in our respiratory system. It is responsible for filtering, humidifying, and warming the air we breathe before it enters our lungs. This is crucial for maintaining healthy respiratory function and preventing respiratory infections. The nose also contains specialized cells called olfactory receptor neurons, which detect odor molecules and send signals to the brain to interpret them. This process helps us identify potential dangers, such as the smell of smoke or gas leaks, and can help protect us from harm.

Furthermore, the nose is an important aspect of our physical appearance. It is a prominent feature on our face, and its size and shape can greatly impact our overall aesthetic. For many people, the appearance of their nose can have a significant impact on their self-esteem and confidence. In some cases, people may even undergo cosmetic surgery to alter the appearance of their nose.

In addition to its physiological and aesthetic importance, the nose also has cultural significance. In many cultures, the nose is seen as a symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and intuition. For example, the ancient Egyptians believed that the nose contained the breath of life and was necessary for the soul to enter the body. In Hinduism, the god Ganesha is depicted with a large elephant nose, symbolizing his wisdom and ability to overcome obstacles.

In conclusion, while all body parts are important, the nose stands out as one of the most crucial. Its role in our sense of smell, respiratory function, physical appearance, and cultural significance make it an integral part of our overall well-being and identity. Therefore, we should take care to protect and maintain our noses, and appreciate their many important functions in our lives.

The nose is often overlooked as a vital body part. It is not as glamorous as the eyes or the lips, and it does not have the same level of social importance as the hands or the feet. However, the nose is actually one of the most important body parts, and it plays a vital role in our everyday lives.

One of the most important functions of the nose is to provide us with the sense of smell. Smell is one of our most powerful senses, and it is essential for our survival. Our sense of smell allows us to detect danger, find food, and identify potential mates. It also plays a role in our emotional well-being. The smell of a loved one can trigger happy memories, and the smell of food can make our mouths water.

Another important function of the nose is to filter the air we breathe. The nose contains a layer of mucus that traps dust, pollen, and other particles. These particles are then expelled from the body through the nose. This helps to protect our lungs from infection.

The nose also helps to regulate our body temperature. The blood vessels in the nose expand and contract to help us cool down or warm up. This is important for maintaining our body temperature in hot and cold weather.

Finally, the nose helps to produce sound. The nasal cavity acts as a resonating chamber that amplifies our voice. This is why people with blocked noses often sound muffled.

In conclusion, the nose is a vital body part that plays a number of important roles. It provides us with the sense of smell, filters the air we breathe, regulates our body temperature, and helps to produce sound. Without a nose, we would be unable to live a normal life.

In addition to the above, the nose also plays a role in our self-image and our sense of identity. The way we perceive our nose can have a significant impact on our self-esteem. People who are unhappy with the appearance of their nose may feel self-conscious and avoid social situations. This can lead to social isolation and depression.

The nose is also a symbol of our personality. In many cultures, the nose is seen as a sign of beauty, intelligence, and strength. People with large noses are often seen as being more confident and assertive. People with small noses are often seen as being more delicate and feminine.

The nose is a complex and fascinating organ that plays a vital role in our everyday lives. It is more than just a piece of flesh on our face. It is a sensory organ, a filter, a regulator, and a symbol. We should all appreciate the importance of our noses and take care of them.

Neoliberalism is a political and economic philosophy that advocates free market, free trade, and limited government intervention in the economy. It is a revival of classical liberal ideas that were popular in the 19th century.

The term “neoliberalism” was first used in 1938 at a meeting in Paris of economists and philosophers who were opposed to the rise of fascism and communism. The meeting, known as the Colloque Walter Lippmann, was attended by Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and other leading classical liberals.

After the Second World War, neoliberalism began to gain popularity in the United States and Europe. It was seen as a way to rebuild the economies of these countries after the war and to prevent the rise of communism.

In the 1970s, neoliberalism began to be implemented in a more systematic way. This was due in part to the economic crisis of the 1970s, which led to a loss of faith in Keynesian economics.

Neoliberalism has been implemented in a variety of ways in different countries. In some cases, it has been implemented through radical reforms, such as the privatization of state-owned enterprises. In other cases, it has been implemented more gradually, through a series of smaller reforms.

Neoliberalism has had a significant impact on the global economy. It has led to increased trade and investment, and it has helped to reduce poverty in some countries. However, it has also led to increased inequality and a decline in the power of labor unions.

Neoliberalism is a controversial ideology. Some people argue that it has led to greater economic prosperity and freedom. Others argue that it has led to increased inequality and a decline in the quality of life for many people.

The debate over neoliberalism is likely to continue for many years to come.

I was going to write something along the lines of “Although the math works, I think it's safe to say that #Bitcoin has turned out not to work in the real world; what can we learn from this about what kinds of things work and don't work in the real world?”

But then that got me thinking about how Bitcoin actually works and doesn't work, because an obvious counter would be “whaddya mean it doesn't work??”. And that led to some thoughts that I felt like writing down sort of informally here; they're about “what determines the exchange value of Bitcoin, and why is that non-zero?”

Beanie Babies

One reason Bitcoin has a dollar value (for instance) is that people want to own some because they think they are likely to be able to sell them for more later on. In this way they are investments, or collectibles, like say Beanie Babies.

(Both have a certain limited fundamental value, in that Beanie Babies are cute furry things that one can curl up with and pet, and Bitcoin(s) are things that the cool kids own. The latter is considerably more contingent than the former. Also Bitcoin is fungible, so there's no rarity effect.)

Money Laundering

If I have a bunch of US Dollars or some other popular currency, that I acquired through doing crimes, and I want to break the chain of evidence between the crimes and the money, I can buy a bunch of Bitcoin with that currency, and then sell it again, taking more or less care to obfuscate my footprints in the blockchain as I do it. Especially if I am a middle-sized criminal organization large enough to not mind the transaction fees and small enough that Law Enforcement will not bother to do the potentially annoying effort required to trace the transactions, this is a good way to launder the money.

Note that in this case I don't care at all what the exchange value of Bitcoin is, just that it be positive. But an ongoing demand for Bitcoin for money laundering will keep the value at some non-zero value or other.

Value Support

Perhaps there is someone, let's call him Fred, who watches the value of Bitcoin, and has a floor value in mind, and if Bitcoin's value threatens to go below the floor value for too long, Fred does a thing. First Fred creates a new company, say “Global Cash Net Coin Biz” or “Joe's Quik Lube”, and has that company issue a bond with a face value of a few million US dollars; the company then sells the bond to Fred for, say, one dollar and other valuable consideration.

Having now a few million dollars of additional “reserves” in the form of “commercial paper” (also known as “other cash equivalents”), Fred uses that to issue himself a few million units of a “stablecoin” he controls which is nominally “cross my heart and swear to die” pinned to the value of the US dollar, and then uses those to buy enough Bitcoin to get the price back up above the floor value.

All of this activity and price resilience proves to the world that Bitcoin is a valuable asset, so the price stays up, and Bob's your Uncle.

Certain steps in this process would be, arguably, illegal. But as long as nothing goes wrong, everyone is better off! More or less!


So that's where Bitcoin's value comes from: Beanie Babies, money laundering, and financial fraud.

One might suggest that the same is true of the US dollar; the key difference, though, is that the USA exists, and will always require people to pay their taxes in those dollars. So there will be demand as long as the USA is a viable thing. Collectors and money launderers and Fred, on the other hand, could stop buying Bitcoin at any time, if something else as useful pops up.

The Dwarves of Rhymeceilings had never taken down a multi-story above-ground structure before, as there had only ever been the one. But now it was time, as the attempt at a bucket-filled waterfall-tower had proven not nearly worth the effort: it froze in winter, as with all aboveground structures, and produced a puff of mist next to the properly-underground tavern below it only once a week, or perhaps month, or year. The new windmill-powered one, although further from the Tavern, had now rendered it entirely obsolete.

Ared Ilrerorkek was an expert diagnostician, but spent most of his time showing up drunk and naked to every available mining job, the further underground and distant from society the better; deprived of a dangerous physical task to perform dressed in nothing but socks and more recently a very fine river-otter-leather cloak (this was politely described as “zany” by his friends), he would rapidly fall into depression and stumble about aimlessly.

Needless to say, he was the first on the scene when it was time to deconstruct the Water Tower. Applying his usual unplanned but enthusiastic approach, he started tearing down walls, which caused the ceiling to fall in on him, the floor to collapse, and his body to fall several Z-levels down into the bottom of the obsolete well, in seven-deep water and crushed beneath the willow blocks of the tower.

A sad day for the fortress!

During the excavation for his planned palatial tomb near the well-bottom that had claimed his life, a goblin parley-horn was heard sounding from the West; a delegation from Spossnodub, the Abyssal Plague, had come to demand something or other from Rhymeceilings. Our Mayor at the time, Tukstis Asmuroma (still only a Mayor after the unfortunate death of the Founder and Baroness Zan Zozdegel in 112), went out to meet with them, but came back with no useful information, only carrying things from place to place muttering for some time.

We were still wondering whether the Mayor had received some demand from the Vile Force of Darkness after all, and whether his carrying and muttering were somehow related to the threat, when the sounds of battle arose from outside the walls, and the Battle Horn was blown.

In the aftermath, it developed that one or more of the Vile Force had slaughtered an animal that had strayed beyond the walls, and/or perhaps a Child Snatcher had attempted to slip into the fortress, and one of the more impatient members of the Guard had blown the horn; but in any case all thought of parley was now cast aside.

The battle was quick and bloody. When it was over, all of the Vile Force of Darkness was dead or fled, as was two-fifths of the then population of Rhymeceilings. The hospital was full of groaning patients, and various civilian bards and dancers were pressed into service as doctors and surgeons. Hammerlord Doren Zuglarbakust erithobur Kakdal, who had added at least two goblin kills to her long list, was in the Dead Sanctum, praying noisily to Mondul, deity of Death. And it had been suggested to the scholars in the Great Library that designs for more effective fortifications, and perhaps cunning traps, might be helpful as preparation for the future.

Shortly after this, naturally, a caravan from home, including the Outpost Liaison Asmel Gidthurreg, arrived. As I write this in the Great Library (which was, thankfully, spared any significant impact of battle), the Liaison is still wandering the fortress, waiting for the Mayor (who suffered compound fractures of the lower spine) to regain consciousness.

It was a bright, sunny day when a man stepped onto the dusty platform at the small Wyoming town of Grady. He looked to be in his late forties, with an easy gait and a confident expression on his face. He was dressed in a gray suit, and carried a battered suitcase. He looked around curiously, and smiled as he noticed the curious faces watching him from windows and porches.

He felt a strong sense of belonging, a feeling that this was exactly where he should be. He stepped forward, and as he did, something extraordinary happened: he split into four parts, each one of him standing side by side, forming a string quartet.

The four men stood in a line, dressed identically, each playing his own instrument. One of them held a violin, one a viola, one a cello, and the last a double bass. All four instruments played together in perfect harmony, and the man who had arrived a few moments earlier smiled in amazement as the music filled the air.

The people of Grady stepped forward and gathered around the quartet, looking on in amazement. They had never seen anything like this before.

The four men played for a few moments, then stopped abruptly. A small flock of birds had swooped down from the sky and were perched on the man's head, and he beamed with delight as the birds chirped and sang in harmony with the quartet.

The people of Grady were entranced. They had never seen or heard anything like this before. The man looked around at them and smiled, and then he spoke:

“Friends,” he said, in a voice that was both gentle and dignified, “I am here for a reason. I am here to explore the wonders of the world. To discover new things, and to share them with you. Please, come with me, and together, let us explore the mysterious and the magical, the strange and the beautiful.”

The people of Grady, filled with excitement and anticipation, agreed. They followed the man and his string quartet, filled with dreams of adventure.

As they walked, the man began to tell stories of magical creatures and strange lands. He spoke of otherworldly creatures, of distant places and hidden secrets. The people of Grady listened with fascination.

The man told them of a wondrous land that was full of mystery and mystery. He told them of a forest full of birds and beasts, and of a village of elves who lived in the treetops. He spoke of ancient ruins, of lost cities, of strange creatures and places undiscovered. He described the beauty of the world, and filled their hearts with a sense of wonder.

After a long journey, the man and his quartet finally arrived at their destination. They had reached a mystical mountain, and the man declared that this was the end of their journey. He asked the people of Grady to look around, to explore and to marvel at the amazing things they saw.

The people of Grady did as the man asked, and they became lost in the beauty of the world they had discovered. Everywhere they looked, they saw something new, something strange, something beautiful. They saw birds that sang in different languages, and plants that glowed in the darkness of night. They saw creatures that seemed to come straight out of a dream, and places that seemed to exist only in their imaginations.

Above all, they saw the man. He stood at the center of the mountain, surrounded by his string quartet, the birds perched on his head. He looked around, and smiled, and they felt an overwhelming sense of calm.

The man had become part of this place, and the people of Grady were in awe. They began to whisper among themselves, speculating about the man and his quartet, about the birds and the creatures, about the beauty of the world they had discovered.

They saw the man as a symbol of exploration, of discovery, of true magic. He had truly become the embodiment of their dreams.

They lived in huts now, lovely round simple things that were hidden amongst the trees, and they lived off the land. They had no real leader, no real leader, which was perhaps one of the reasons they were able to survive so long. And it was a beautiful, peaceful life they led.

Once every year, they would gather in the center of the mountain, where the man and his quartet still stood. They would sing, and tell stories, and play instruments. They would share their dreams with one another, and marvel at them all.

The man always sat by a wide, clear pond that was fed by a glorious waterfall. He would sit down by the pond and look around at all the people, and he always smiled contentedly.

Some people would tell stories about the man, some about the birds and the animals, and some about the beautiful world they had all discovered. The stories would always be full of wonder and mystery and imagination, and a great sense of adventure.

The people would laugh, remembering their old lives of dust and toil, and the satisfaction they felt when they fulfilled their dreams. They would each tell a story, and they would each share their dreams with everyone.

The man sat at the pond, listening to the stories and sharing in the dreams. And whenever anyone asked about the mysterious circumstances of his arrival, the birds, the violin, the double bass, the man would smile and say, “It's a long story. A very long story.”

In a nearby hut, an old man sat in the corner, carving a piece of wood. He was very old, his hands twisted and gnarled, but he was very skilled. His hands moved swiftly, and the sounds of the birds echoed inside his mind.

The birds had been a source of great inspiration for him. They were like music, like music, and he was slowly learning to play their song. And the melody it produced was beautiful, and it made him smile whenever he heard it.

He carved a tiny violin, with strings as fine as silk and as strong as steel. He carved its body and its neck, and he carved its bow and its tuning pegs. He carved a barrel for the violin, and he carved its pegs. He carved its tailpiece, and he carved its chin rest.

And when he was done, he smiled to himself, thinking of the wonder and the magic of it all. He said to himself, “It's a long story, a very long story,” and then he laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

That night, just at the darkest hour, there came riding out of the sky on a smoldering horse-fox, a beautiful girl with skin like fire and hair like snow. She was wrapped in a cloak made of feathers, and she gave a mournful cry as her eyes fell on the man.

“My poor, poor sisters,” she cried, “how they must feel!”

And then she turned to the man and pleaded with him, “I beseech you, my Lord, I beseech you, but only you, can help us! And if you do, then we shall be free. If only you could help us, my sisters would be free.”

And the man, for the first time, looked confused. “But I do not know your sisters,” he said, “and I do not know what you mean.”

And the girl looked at him, and she looked at the birds on his head, and she said, “You must have forgotten.”

And then she turned sadly away from the man, and she flew back into the darkness of the night.

The man sat by the pond, and he stared into the water. He stared at his reflection in the water, and he thought of the girl, and her sisters, and her appeal.

He thought of all the people, and the stories they had told. He thought of all the dreams they had shared.

He saw the image of the girl in the water, and he knew that he had been there before, that he had seen her before, but he could not remember when, or where, or how.

He began to play with the birds. He played, and his music echoed into the distance, and the birds joined in the song. And the music was like a dream, and the birds were like music.

The man played for a long time, until the birds and the animals and the people of Grady had all fallen asleep. The music flowed out into the world, filling the air with melody, and peace, and wonder, and the man slept by the pond.

Then, at the darkest hour, there came riding out of the sky on a smoldering horse-fox, a beautiful girl with skin like fire and hair like snow. She was wrapped in a cloak made of feathers, and she gave a mournful cry as her eyes fell on the man.

“My poor, poor sisters,” she cried, “how they must feel!”

And then she turned to the man, and she said, “Were you not you were a boy, my lord?”

And the man said, “Yes, I was once a boy.”

And the girl said, “Could you not still be a boy?”

And the man looked at the birds on his head, and he thought of the dream they had shared. He thought of the people of Grady, and their stories. He thought of their dreams, and he thought of his own dreams, and he thought of the girl, and of her sisters.

And then he thought of the story the old man had told, and he remembered the girl, and her sisters, and the music, and the words, and the wonder and the magic of it all.

And with that, he raised his violin to his shoulder, and he played. The melody echoed through the mountains and the valleys, through the forests and the fields, and the birds joined in the song.

And the music was like a dream, and the birds were like music.

Pretty impressive! I made Parker House Rolls the other day, and today I was talking to a friend about #ChatGPT, and decided it see what kind of recipe it would generate. It did a really good job! Compare to the one that I posted on Wordpress.

Parker House Rolls by #ChatGPT


  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ½ cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups milk, lukewarm
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour


  1. In a small bowl, combine the yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and ½ cup of lukewarm milk. Stir to dissolve the yeast and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the remaining sugar, milk, and butter. Add the eggs, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Mix on low speed until well combined.
  3. Add the yeast mixture and continue mixing on low speed, gradually adding the remaining flour ½ cup at a time until a soft dough forms. You may not need to use all of the flour.
  4. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue kneading the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  5. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a clean, damp cloth and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  6. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place them in a greased 9x13-inch baking dish.
  7. Cover the rolls with a clean, damp cloth and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  9. Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
  10. Serve the rolls warm, with butter.

Executive summary:

Get your magic authorization token by logging into your server, right-clicking on the page in Chrome, doing “Inspect”, going to the “Network” section, reloading if necessary, clicking on any request, looking at the Request Headers, and finding the Authorization header that contains “Bearer” followed by lots of alphanumeric gibberish. That gibberish is your token.

In a shell, issue:

curl --header "Authorization: Bearer [token]" -X POST https://[your server]/api/v1/domain_blocks -d "domain=[bad server]"

and expect the reply {}.

Or forget all of that, and make a one-line file with the domain name and import it as a domain-block list!

Possibly-entertaining narrative form:

I started to write this with an introduction about blocking domains and why it's useful and how Mastodon differs from Twitter and stuff, but realized that it's not really relevant. Maybe I'll polish that and post it by itself someday. Even this is getting long, so I'll put a tl;dr at the top most likely.

But anyway suffice it to say that sometimes one finds out that a server called like exists, and that for whatever reason one doesn't want to interact with it or anyone on it, in any way.

(As a user, that is. Being a server admin and wanting to cut off from interacting with one's server is a Whole Other Thing that I'm not talking about here.)

Various UIs and apps and things provide various ways to do this. The simplest way to do it in the web ui (which is all I use or know much about) is to find some user on the server, say foo, search on @[email protected], find that profile, open it, open the kabob (three vertical dots) menu in the profile, and do “Block domain”. The server will then show up under “blocked domains” in one's own profile dropdown.

This doesn't work if there aren't any known users on, or if that server refuses to serve anything about them (the empty “profile unavailable” fake profile that the UI serves up in that case doesn't have a kabob menu).

In that case, we can still block the server, by having fun with curl and the Mastodon API. Yay!

(Probably there is also some much simpler method that someone will point out to me and I will slap my forehead, but this is still fun! Since this was originally written, it's been pointed out that one can make a one-line file with the domain name, and then import it as a blocked-domains list under “Import and Export”, so that's an alternative. But less fun!)

curl (“client for URLs”) is a magical and very useful 25-year-old program that lets one do all sorts of things that normally browsers do, from a command line. It was originally a *ix program of course, but I was impressed to find that it's also Just There and Just Works from a Windows shell prompt in Windows 11 here, which is cool.

If we look at the Mastodon API documentation on domain blocking, we see that all we need to do is send a POST request to /api/v1/domain_blocks on our server, with the domain field set to There's also some stuff about an “Authorization”, but we'll ignore that for now.

To send that via curl, we would just do:

curl -X POST https://[your server]/api/v1/domain_blocks -d ""

Doing that gets us the polite reply:

{ "error": "The access token is invalid" }

so apparently we do have to worry about that Authorization thing.

The thing that we need is a magical token that reflects the fact that we are us, and we are logged onto our server. There are two ways to obtain this token; we can actually send the OAUTH request with our password and everything, as described here (I don't know why I can't find a more official-looking source; probably bad github search skills, unless perhaps it's not or no longer correct), or we can just get it from a logged-in browser session.

To do the latter in Chrome (in other browsers, presumably some rough equivalent), right-click on a page where you're logged into your server, choose Inspect to get the scary everything-going-on page, select “Network” at the top, wait or refresh the page until some requests appear in the request list, click on one, scroll to the request headers section, and find the “Authorization” header; it should contain the word “Bearer” followed by a whole lot of alphanumeric gibberish. That gibberish is the magical token.

Armed with that, we can do:

curl --header "Authorization: Bearer [gibberish]" -X POST https://[your server]/api/v1/domain_blocks -d ""

If that works, it will helpfully reply {}, and now should appear in your Blocked Domains list, and you'll never have to deal with those jerks.


Good #zazen today. An easy claim, as all zazen is pretty much inherently perfect.

As is everything else. But we tend to talk about much other stuff in contexts where it's (perhaps?) useful to speak as though it weren't.

About five minutes in (I have bells set every five minutes for thirty minutes in the little Zen timer app that I use on my oblong), I got a very strong itch near the small of my back.

My body was yelling, “Itch! Itch! Possible burrowing parasitic insect or infected thorn or something! Skin alert! Scrape skin with fingernails at once!”, as bodies do.

It was interesting to sit there with the itch and the yelling from my body, as one sits there with the sleepiness and the arising and dissipating of thoughts and the taking in and letting out of breath.

We scratch itches just like we wash our bowls (or put them in the dishwasher) after eating; there's nothing at all wrong with scratching an itch. We also follow trains of thought, pursue ideas, walk around, and even fall asleep.

But it's good, it's also good, to sometimes sit there with the itch, not scratching it but just acknowledging it, accepting it, noticing that the body is yelling. Noticing that we are sleepy, that trains of thought are arising, that the legs are aching a bit. And not doing anything about it.

Fendor faked his own death (as everyone suspects) but so did Meredith. Meredith then killed Fendor for real, using Mac's knife, during the macarena, and she is the one who has been moving the statues.

All of the characters except Benny are animatronic robots that Benny created in the alien lab, but due to the trauma on New Year's Eve, he's suppressed that knowledge. He will regain his memory, and then in a climactic final scene will discover that he is also a robot, created by the aliens before they left Earth, and Sherene has known all along.

The characters are all dead and in Hell; Benny is Satan.

The characters are all dead and in Heaven; Mac is God.

The characters are all dead; Benny is God, Mac is Satan, and the two are vying for control of the others through the visions.

Meredith and Mac are working together to drive Benny insane, so they can split the lottery winnings between them; everyone but Benny knows that Meredith is still alive, but don't mention it to avoid enraging him again.

Sherene and Mac are lovers, and only pretending to hate each other to keep Meredith from suspecting.

Benny and Mac are lovers, and only pretending to hate each other to keep Sherene from suspecting.

Sherene has a key to the Circular Room, and has been slipping in at night and planting the “alien messages” to manipulate the others.

Fendor was not killed by the poison, and regained consciousness during the macarena. He is the one that lit the fire in the abbey, and used the distraction to steal Meredith's papers.

Anyone entering the Circular Room is transported forward in time by one day (alien technology). This is how Meredith could reappear in the dining room after the macarena; Mac was not involved in any way.